Coloring apps — which let you color images as if on a coloring book page while using your phone or tablet’s touchscreen — are great fun for younger children, giving them a chance to get creative without any mess. For older kids and adults, coloring apps offer an alternative to casual gaming and a relaxing way to pass some time wherever you are.
We’ve tested a range of coloring apps and come up with five that we think cover all the bases. There’s an app that’s perfect for kids, an option that provides an innovative 3D coloring experience, and one that will play back a time-lapse video of your coloring-in process. The following apps all offer a limited free version, so you can see if they work for you before paying for a subscription.
Cost: Free, $1.99 to unlock all content
PicoToONs is an easy-to-use coloring app that’s ideal for children. It offers over 120 coloring pages in five kid-friendly themes: animals, occupations, fairies and friends, robots, and creatures. T
he free version allows access to one coloring page from each category in total, or you can unlock all the imagery with a $1.99 in-app purchase. The full-fat version gives your child access to a sketchbook area where they can freestyle draw.
While your little one can color in the app’s pictures using a tap-to-fill bucket method, more dextrous older children can enjoy a range of drawing tools, including a coloring pencil, a crayon, a paint brush, a spray can, a marker, and a sparkling glitter paint tool. They can easily add text to images and decorate them with stickers. The app has a gallery section where kids can save their images as works in progress or finished masterpieces.
Cost: Free, from $7.99 weekly subscription
Color by Number is a fun option for fans of pixel art.
It’s a color-by-numbers app offering a plethora of cute and kawaii illustrations that you can color in box by box. It’s easy enough for kids to use — it’s simply a matter of tapping on part of an image to see the numbers while the corresponding colors appear at the bottom of the screen — and very relaxing for adults, providing an almost meditative immersive experience. You can search for images by browsing different categories, like food, animals, tech, places, games, and animations, or you can search via keyword tags for a more targeted search.
Once you’ve completed your color-by-numbers creation, you can share your artwork with the Color by Number community and browse others’ creations, too.
Cost: Free, from $2.99 subscription
This coloring app really ups the relaxation ante by adding a soothing soundtrack to your coloring sessions. There are many lovely, ambient options, like the sounds of a rainy day, springtime, ocean waves, a zen garden, fireside sounds, and the peaceful babbling of a mountain stream.
The free version of this app gives you limited access to a range of gorgeous illustrations to color in, with categories including abstract, exotic, garden, mandalas, animals, and fantasy, all of which have very attractive, detailed designs. The actual coloring-in action is done by first selecting a color, then tapping on a part of the picture to fill with color. Paired with the soundtrack, it’s very relaxing to see your chosen illustration slowly fill with rich, vibrant colors. There are also texture options like brick, leather, silk, watercolor, and wet glass that you can apply to your colored image.
Once you’re happy with an image, you can save it to your own gallery.
Cost: Free, from $7.99 for subscription
Recolor is a very popular coloring app with a robust community.
It has a wide range of illustrations and designs, and the color palettes are extensive and include lots of skin tones and even metallic shades. Categories include mandalas, cats, dogs, hair, portraits, fantasy, animals, romance, florals, fashion, and even famous movies.
Recolor stands out from the crowd by offering a range of 3D designs to color in. Tap on the color you want, then tap on an area of the image basis to fill it. This app also offers the fantastic ability to upload your own imagery into the app so you can color in your own designs, or designs from a physical coloring book.
If you subscribe to this app, you get unlimited access to all Recolor features, including the entire gallery of 5,000-plus pictures, all color palettes, hundreds of colors, all filters and effects, and no ads.
Cost: Free, from $3.99 for subscription
Colorgram is a really fresh and fun coloring app, with loads of fabulous contemporary designs like cityscapes, fantasy figures, and floral arrangements. It also offers the brilliant function of playing back your coloring-in process with a time-lapse video that’s strangely satisfying to watch. If you enjoy these time-lapse creations, you can head to the “Community” area to view other Colorgram’s users illustration processes, too.
This app boasts 19 categories, which include girls, animals, fashion, patterns, cats, garden sceneries, dogs, mandalas, serenity, cities, fantasy, floral, food, and messages. Cologram boasts 2,500-plus coloring pages, but you do have to subscribe if you want to access them all. There are 500-plus colors, and subscribers can create and save their own custom color palettes.
This coloring app really shines when used on an iPad with an Apple Pencil, but the phone version is great for casual coloring sessions.